What are keywords and how to choose the right ones?

27 June 2022

You have probably heard about keywords many times in the context of marketing, websites and social media. If you are wondering what keywords are and how to use them to your advantage, keep on reading.

What are keywords?

Keywords (also known as “keyphrases” or “search queries”) are the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find more information about a particular topic. Keywords are how users look for answers online.

When defining keywords for a specific web page, you are telling Google (or any other engine) what your content is about. If you choose the right ones, your content has a greater chance of ranking highly in search results and being displayed to the right person.

There are two important things to remember.

• A keyword can be any single word or long phrase. For example, the word “plant” is a keyword, and so is the long phrase “how to take care of spider plant”.

• Besides Google and other traditional engines, any social media can also be considered a search engine, which is why key phrases matter on social media as well.

Short-tail and long-tail keywords

Short-tail keywords contain no more than three words. They cover a broader topic and deliver a greater volume of search results, and respectively – bigger traffic.

Short-tail keywords are also more competitive, which means it’s more difficult to rank in search results (as there will be many more websites that are indexed for the same keywords).

Because short-tail keyphrases are generic and return a lot of results, they are not considered to be of high quality and may lead to higher bounce rates (the percentage of visitors that leave a webpage without taking an action).

Short-teail keywords example

Long-tail keywords contain more than three words. They have a lower search volume and therefore are less competitive.

Long-tail keyphrases are more specific and targeted, which means that even though they bring less traffic, they are more likely to convert in action (as opposed to bigger traffic and no intent with short-tail ones).

Why are keywords important?

Keywords are basically how users find you online, be it through organic searches or paid campaigns.

To show up high in organic search engine results, you need good SEO (see Basic Search Engine Optimization Tips). And one of the pillars of good SEO are keywords. If you use the right ones, you indicate to Google what your content is about and you connect it to the relevant search queries. This is what makes the difference between being found, read and interacted with, and remaining buried in the tens of thousands of search results.

Keywords are also important for Google Ad campaigns (the paid search results that appear above the organic ones). The difference here is that advertisers bid for specific words in order to appear at the top of search results.

adwords example

Keywords and social media

But the importance of keywords goes beyond traditional search engines. Any social network can also be considered a search engine. Therefore, keyphrases also matter a lot in Instagram, LinkedIn and other networks. You can browse any content (including posts, accounts, places, jobs, and more) by entering queries into the search tab of any given social network. This means your social media content should be based on and optimized with keywords in the same way your website is.

How to find the right keywords?

Choosing the right keywords may seem like an easy task. But because the web is so competitive and saturated, things get a bit more complex if you are really looking to attract quality leads.

There are four important parameters to consider when choosing the right keywords:

• Word count (number of words that make up a keyword)

• Search volume (the number of times a keyword is searched)

• Competition (how many webpages use the same keyword)

• Price (the cost per click in the case of Adwords and paid campaigns)

Based on these parameters, a high quality keyphrase would be a long-tail one – with higher word count, less search volume and less competition. For instance, instead of using the more generic short-tail “mobile phones”, you would use the more targeted, geo-specific long-tail “ultra resistant mobile phones in Barcelona”.

But simple guessing, even when it’s based on the above parameters, is not enough. There are many tools aimed at helping you find the right keywords. One of them is Keyword Surfer – a free Chrome extension that allows you to see search volumes , costs per click, keyword ideas, related terms and more, directly in Google search results.

keyword surfer example

If your budget is tight, you don’t necessarily need to invest money in paid tools. Instead you can use some of Google’s own tools:

Google Search Console: It shows how users discover your website and how it performs for specific search queries (clicks and impressions). You can use this data to determine which pages rank well and how to improve their keywords.

Google Autocomplete: You know how when you want to search for something on Google, you get autocomplete suggestions in the search bar? You can use these suggestions to see what other related keywords users are searching for.

Google autocomplete example

Google Related Searches: You can find this section at the bottom of the Google results page and use it for ideas of related keywords.

Google related searches example

People also ask: This section shows you the types of questions people are asking in relation to a given keyword or topic. It can give you ideas for more targeted and specific keywords.

People also ask example

How to use keywords?

On your website

You can and should use keywords in various places on your website, including:

• Page titles: A page title shows up as the first line of a search result and indicates what the page is about. Often, the page title is the same as the name of the page (e.g. Team, About us, name of a blog post etc.), but you can tweak it in a way that is still relevant to the content, but better optimized with keywords.

• Meta descriptions: This is the second part of a search result. Using keywords in meta descriptions can indicate to users and Google how relevant your content is to specific search query.

title and metaa description example

• Heading and subheadings: Just like in the title and in the meta descripton, using keywords in your headings and subheadings can help indicate to Google what the text is about. Subheadings are also useful for reading purposes, as they make the content easily scannable. In addition, they may appear in search results as part of a featured snippet.

headings in snippet example

• Content: Because it is essential for search engine rankings, content is one of the most important places to use keywords. As a general rule, in addition to the heading and subheadings, try to use your keyword in the introduction (if you have any) and at least in the first paragraph. You can use it throughout the text, but beware of stuffing – mentioning your keyword too often such as in every other sentence. This would make your content difficult to read and may even cause penalties from Google. Instead, try to use synonyms and variations as your content’s main purpose is to be readable and comprehensive.

On Instagram

Optimizing your profile and content on Instagram is equally important if you want to come up high in search results within the network. Make sure to include keywords in:

• Your IG handle, name and bio

• Your post captions

• The alt description of your posts (in Advanced settings)

• Hashtags